The Far Country – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

For hundreds of years, individuals and families have abandoned all they knew, leaving behind history and heritage, to achieve a new life, a better life, in a yet unknown place. Their hopes and dreams are tied up in their prospects and possibilities, that this adventure into the uncertain and exotic will gain them freedom and a realized dream. Risking everything, even the chance of death, they travel into a future that promises much but does not possess guarantees.

The Yale Repertory Theatre in New Haven is inviting you on this perilous journey in Lloyd Suh’s “The Far Country” until Saturday, May 18. From the rural farmlands of Taishan, China to the not always welcoming Angel Island Detention Center, you will meet the hopeful immigrants eager to reach the golden shores of San Francisco. How successful will they be in abandoning their past for a bright future in an unchartered land?

Seeking admittance in America for the Chinese is much like pleading for parole from a prison sentence: you have to beg your captors to free you from your present difficult situation to gain a new status and, ultimately, freedom. Kim Zhou’s set suggests a bleak and unforgiving series of rooms where you hold your breath and pray you have the right documents to show and the correct answers to their interminable questions. Come meet Hao Feng’s hopeful Moon Gyet who has memorized an entire background as a “paper son” to prove he has the right to enter the United States, a false set of facts that he is born of American parents or a child of American citizens. Years before, David Shih’s Gee has endured the same endless questions, after paying his own fees for the privilege, and is now a successful laundry owner who needs an able bodied man to help him.He has focused his sights on Moon Gyet.

The 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act banned Chinese workers from entering the U.S. so migrants were forced to lie, to answer senseless questions, to create false identities. We are witness to Moon Gyet’s emotional leaving of his mother Low, Tina Chilip, and the intense interrogation he receives at Angel Island Detention Center from Haskell King, inspector, and Joe Osheroff, the interpreter. Recently hundreds of poems in Chinese have been discovered at Angel Island that bear testimony to the indignities suffered there.

Again years later Moon Gyet returns to his Chinese roots to reunite with his mother in a tender scene but also to purchase for himself a wife, just as he had been “purchased” so long ago. He seals his fate with Joyce Meimei Zheng’s Yuen, an outspoken young woman who knows what she is getting into and the rules of the game. Her refreshing promise of hope reveals how successful this match made of necessity will be, under the lyrical direction of Ralph B. Pena, with costumes by Kiyoshi Shaw, lighting by Yichen Zhou, sound design and original music by Joe Krempetz and Xi (Zoey) Lin and projection designer Hana S. Kim. This production is poignant, painful and powerful, thanks to its accomplished cast..

For tickets ($15-65), call the Yale Rep, 1120 Chapel Street, New Haven at 203-432-1234 or online at Performances are Monday to Friday at 8 p.m., and Satuday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Let this forgotten stage of history be a reminder of the price, not just in dollars, what many are willing to pay and eager to pay for the gift of being free.